Racheal Cook:
When you’re first getting started in your business, yes is our go to answer to nearly any question. “Hey, can we meet up for coffee?” Yes. “Are you available to meet at 8:00 in the evening?” Yes. “Can we add this and this and this to our project?” Yes. Suddenly you’re saying yes to so many things, that it starts to kind of get a little bit out of control. And as your business starts to grow and you take on more clients and you have more going on, all those yeses actually start to mean no to doing the CEO level work that you need to focus on. So in this episode, we are talking about boundaries, a CEO’s best friend. So that you can get more confident and comfortable saying no so that you can say yes to doing the work that you are truly here to do.

Racheal Cook:
Are you ready to grow from solopreneur to CEO? You’re in the right place. I’m your host, Racheal Cook. And I’ve spent the last decade helping women entrepreneurs start and scale service based businesses. If you’re serious about building a sustainable business, it’s time to put the strategy, systems, and support in place to make it happen. Join me every week for candid conversations about stepping into your role as CEO, the hard lessons learned along the way, and practical, profitable strategies to grow a sustainable business without the hustle and burnout.

Racheal Cook:
Now before we get into today’s episode all about a seat CEO’s best friend. The answer no, or having boundaries. I want to share with you a little update. I realized actually today, I was in a client session with one of my CEO accelerator clients. And she was asking me about all the other ladies in the accelerator, they’ve just gotten to know each other. And I realized that I hadn’t announced we’ve already filled the accelerator. So if you’ve been following along for the last month or so you might’ve heard me talk about the CEO accelerator, my mentorship meets mastermind experience. We opened enrollment for it in June. And honestly I’m still kind of mind blown that we filled it within 10 days of announcing it was open. Before I even left for my vacation to Hilton Head, we had the right women already ready to go. They said yes. They’re rocking and rolling inside of our private group for the accelerator and starting to have their VIP days with me already. We started those a couple of weeks ago. And it just kind of blew my mind that it filled so quickly. That hasn’t happened for me in the past. So that’s really exciting, an exciting milestone in my business.

Racheal Cook:
I will definitely be sharing a review of why I think we were able to fill it so much faster than any other time I have announced this program. I’m going to be breaking down kind of the strategy. And also what shifts have been happening that I believe led to these women all saying yes.

Racheal Cook:
But if you are hearing that the accelerator is filled or maybe you’ve gone to the website and realized that the application is already down and now it’s a wait list for the 2020/2021 accelerator. I don’t want you to feel massive amounts of FOMO. It is okay. I truly believe there is a perfect timing for everyone in this whole process. And you can still connect with me and work with me inside of the upcoming CEO retreat. So if you’ve been wanting to get into the room with amazing women entrepreneurs and have me and my team supporting you, giving you insight and strategy and feedback, then check out the CEO retreat. We just announced early bird tickets for the Q4 CEO retreat coming up. We were hosting one here in my hometown of Richmond, Virginia at the gorgeous Quirk Hotel. This is literally the most Instagramable hotel you’ve ever seen in your entire life. It is happening on Friday, September 20th, here in Richmond, Virginia. I promise you it will be well worth the trip to Virginia. We are having an amazing day together. We’ll have a little cocktail hour afterwards. We are really going to make this an incredible event. So I would love to see you in person.

Racheal Cook:
And you know what? I get it. If you can’t travel all the way to Richmond, Virginia for a one day event. I remember those days where that wasn’t an option for me either. So the following week on September 27th, I have a virtual CEO retreat coming up. So you have two options to hang out with me, to connect with these amazing women CEOs, to have the support of my team for the CEO retreat. You will walk away with a 90 day plan, ready to rock and roll, ready to pass off to your team, ready to keep yourself accountable. You’ll also be getting a copy of the new 90 day CEO planner we have been designing behind the scenes. You’re going to get a beta copy of that to test it as we get ready to roll that into production for 2020. I’m so excited, and I would love to have you join us.

Racheal Cook:
Early bird tickets are now available until August 8th. So go check it out and join us. If you are bummed that you missed out on the accelerator, or you just really want a high touch way to connect with me and my team, this is it. This is the best way to get that level of support. We would love to see you there. So that’s it for the updates. Now onto the show.

Racheal Cook:
I wanted to have this conversation with you today around boundaries. Because in the last year and a half of running the CEO retreat, whenever you get a group of women entrepreneurs in the room together, they’re creating their plans or looking at their strategy. They’re looking at how they’re managing their time and what tasks they really need to be focused on. The next question that always comes up is how do I stick to my new plan? How do I maintain this model calendar, when I have clients who are constantly canceling, or missing appointments, or needing me to adjust, and they’re not getting into my ideal calendar? What do I do when I have all these unexpected things pop up? How do I handle that? Because that is what is preventing me from actually sticking to my plan, staying accountable. And making sure that week, after week, after week, I’m doing the CEO level work I need to do. How can I make sure that my time and my energy is protected?

Racheal Cook:
If this sounds familiar, if you have ever had the experience of feeling like your week was completely thrown off because of other people’s demands on your time and your energy, then we need to have a talk about boundaries. That is something that I feel like this is the unsaid part of running a business. We all talk about you need to have a marketing strategy and a sales strategy, and a customer experience strategy. But a big part of customer experience honestly, is having clear boundaries in place. So you know in advance, how you’re going to handle certain situations. And you’re actually able to prevent a lot of these problems before they ever occur.

Racheal Cook:
Now, if you don’t know what boundaries are or you aren’t sure what you’re supposed to do with a boundary, it really is a boundary. Think of a fence. This is where you’re saying this is what works for me. And you’re putting up a hard fence, a hard stop, a line in the sand saying, “This is what is acceptable.” This is what I will say yes to. And this is what I cannot say yes to.

Racheal Cook:
It’s all about clarity. And like Brene Brown says in her latest book Dare to Lead, clear is kind. And that means being kind to yourself as well. So when we have strong boundaries, I feel like a lot of us especially as women, we have been conditioned from such a young age to be the good girl, to accommodate everyone else’s needs. To adjust our schedules to really fit in with whatever other people ask of us. To just endlessly bend over backwards. And as a result, when we step into business, it becomes a real problem because those people pleasing tendencies start to burn us out. We start saying yes where we really need to say no, because we aren’t a hundred percent clear about the trade off. And every time you say yes, there is a trade off. When you say yes to someone seeing you at 8:00 at night, the trade off is you don’t get to say good night to your kids and read a good night story, right? There is always a trade off.

Racheal Cook:
So boundaries is really all about having clarity on what is acceptable and what isn’t acceptable. What works for you, what doesn’t work for you. And when you have clear boundaries in place, then you are able to set clear expectations. To your clients, to your community, and it makes your life so much easier.

Racheal Cook:
So today I want to talk about three different types of boundaries that come up. Three different types of boundaries that I feel like you need to actually sit down and think for yourself what these boundaries need to look like. Because all of us are unique and different. All of us have slightly different boundaries. All of us are a little bit more accommodating in some areas than others. And maybe there’s some areas where you have to be a lot stricter than others. I know I have gone through phases of my life where I needed to be harder about some boundaries than others.

Racheal Cook:
So the three different types of boundaries I feel like we all need to examine are our calendar, our communication, and our clients. If you can identify the clear boundaries and almost write your SOP, your standard operating procedures for your calendar, your communication, and your clients, your business will run so much smoother. You’ll be able to get a support person in place to help you enforce these boundaries. And honestly, your clients will be happier, because they’ll know what to expect. And you’ll be happier, because you won’t consistently be feeling like you’re being pushed too far.

Racheal Cook:
So these are the boundaries I think we all need to talk about. First up, let’s talk about your calendar. This is probably the biggest challenge I hear from women entrepreneurs. They listen to me talk about creating a model calendar where you look at your week as a whole, and you block out times in your calendar to do your CEO date, your team meeting. You block out times in your calendar for your core CEO tasks. Whether that working with clients or doing your sales and marketing, or doing some new business development. You have these blocks of time in your calendar. And I will link up the entire episode I did on the model calendar. It is still one of our most popular episodes of all time. Go listen to it. It is something that is so incredibly important, but there’s a few things that people really struggle with.

Racheal Cook:
And one is, how do I stick to my calendar? How do I stick to this thing I’ve created? I will tell you that this is a practice. It takes practice to stick to it. You’ve got to stick to it personally. And you’ve also got to make sure other things don’t distract you from your model calendar.

Racheal Cook:
So the first things I think that are important for you to kind of put in your calendar, SOP, this is your operating procedures. How you’re going to manage your calendar. One, get your model calendar in place. The first thing there is what are your working hours? What are your working hours? If you go into nearly any other business, they will have hours that they are open and hours that they are closed. You wouldn’t go up to Target at two in the morning and expect them to be open unless you happen to live next to a magical 24 hour Target. I do not. But I know that after a certain time, Target is closed and I cannot go there just to browse around the aisles. So I know that. It is a boundary of my mind. I don’t expect that it’s going to magically open for me.

Racheal Cook:
But somehow, especially for service based business owners, we start to feel like we need to be accessible 24/7. And this is a huge issue. Because suddenly you’re out on date night with your significant other. And instead of paying attention to them, instead of holding their hand and talking about things you want to do together, and dreaming together, and sharing a lovely moment together. Instead, you’re scrolling your email, feeling panicked because someone has emailed you at 10:00 at night, and you feel like you need to be accessible.

Racheal Cook:
So first thing’s first, get some work hours in place and communicate them. Communicate the hours that you are available. This is both available for communication, but also available for appointments. I think this is so important. Often, I look at a lot of my clients and they’re starting to feel drained. And the easiest way for me to figure out why they’re feeling so drained is to look at their calendar. And what I often see is a calendar that is super haphazard. They have appointments spread all over the week. And because of that, they are not able to get in any sort of flow. So they might have a client appointment one morning, an hour available after that, and then another client appointment. And then the next day, it’s like they’re trying to fit in all their other work in between these calls, these clients, these other things going on. And because of that, they never get in a state of flow. And it’s actually taking a tremendous amount of energy. It is wearing them out, because they can never get into that flow state.

Racheal Cook:
If you don’t know what flow state is, seriously go Google it. There’s some great research and literature out there about getting in the flow state. But essentially the concept is when you group like tasks together, you’re able to get in the zone where you actually do much better work. All of your attention is in that one area. So if you’re working with clients, if you have all your clients on one day, suddenly you get in a flow state where you’re able to get a lot more accomplished with them. If you’re doing creative work and you have time blocked out, longer periods of time, you’re able to get into a flow state where you’re just more productive. You’re able to get more quality work accomplished because you can get into that state of flow, get into that state of deep work, which is so critical and important. I love the book Deep Work. I think it’s by Cal Newport. I highly recommend that one.

Racheal Cook:
But if you don’t manage your calendar and you let people book into your calendar here, there, and everywhere, you are really sabotaging yourself. You are cannibalizing your flow state. You’re cannibalizing your most creative zone that you can get into where you can create all the new content you can create, or you can create all those new things for your clients. Or you can do the higher level CEO work that you need to do.

Racheal Cook:
So when I look at my model calendar, the most important thing is my work hours followed by grouping together like with like. Saying I have these themed days. I’m only going to have client calls Tuesdays and Wednesdays from an accelerator clients. I’m only going to do my Q&A calls for my other group programs on Thursdays, every other Thursday. I’m only going to say yes to extra calls, which in my calendar, SOP. Extra calls are anything that’s an interview or a connection call. It’s not a client or it’s not my content related, or one of my courses. It is an interview, or a connection call, or my own coaching calls. I put those all on Fridays. They are in our calendar SOP. We do our best to keep all those things. If I have to connect with someone on my team, those are on Mondays. Because that’s my CEO day.

Racheal Cook:
So we’ve actually created a calendar SOP, a calendar standard operating procedure. I know my work hours. I know my client days. I know my content days. I know my CEO days. I know my course days. And then I have a day, my flex Fridays that kind of is my catch all day for doing other types of calls. But I try to make sure those are there. And our calendar SOP even gets more detailed.

Racheal Cook:
As we were looking at scheduling out all of our accelerator clients, we’ve tried a couple of things. And I realized it when they’re all back, to back, to back, it’s actually really stressful for me. So if I have a call at 10 and then another starting at 11, and another starting at 12. Even if I book in 10 minutes in between each call, it just feels very frantic and rushed. And I realized that I didn’t love that. It made me actually dread client days because I knew I was going to feel frantic and rushed.

Racheal Cook:
So instead, I told my amazing director of customer success [Lane 00:18:27] who manages all of these things. I said, “What else can we play with here so that I’m not feeling so overwhelmed by client days?” And we decided to space them out more.

Racheal Cook:
We decided 30 minutes was perfect and 10 minutes was just not enough. So now I start my client days at 9:00, and then I have a 10:30, and then I have a 12:00, and then I have a 1:30. And that’s still enough for me to get done in the time I have while my work hours are happening, before my kids get home from school. But it gives me a half an hour between each client. Which is great because then I can wrap up my notes. I can take a quick walk around the block. I can stretch. I can do whatever I need to do to take care of myself. And I feel like I have just a lot more time. So that’s part of our calendar SOP, how we manage those client calls. And it makes my life so much easier.

Racheal Cook:
And because we have such clear containers around our calendar, we know exactly how we manage our calendar. Honestly, it makes it so much easier for our clients because the expectations are clear. We know as of today in July, 2019 when I’m recording this. We already know what days I will be available for client calls for my CEO accelerators. So Lane is going ahead and scheduling those through the next entire year. We already have that locked down. And because it’s scheduled in advance, they know how seriously we take our calendar. They know that there are not days available for them to reschedule. In fact, if they miss a session in their year with me, they basically forfeit it. There is no makeup, unless a natural disaster occurs or a real emergency. There just is not makeup in this calendar model. We are fiercely protecting the time and energy of myself and of my team, and everybody who delivers on the accelerator for our clients. So for us, this is just really crucial to help protect the calendar and help protect the boundaries.

Racheal Cook:
So you might be wondering, “Well Racheal, what do you do if somebody has an emergency?” Our accelerator clients actually get what we call our back pocket coaching calls. So often, they’ll be going through a launch and they’ll be like, “I’m kind of freaking out. I need a little bit of help. Can you help me with a sticky client situation? How do you handle these emails?” And they have access to that. But because Lane is so familiar with my calendar and our SOPs are so well ironed out at this point, we’re able to navigate that pretty easily and accommodate those last minute requests. But they get a limited number of those. So we really limit people to how many of those last minute, 15 minute back pocket emergency coaching calls they can have.

Racheal Cook:
And we see in general, that most people don’t even use all of the ones I have. They might need to use one or two, but they honestly don’t need to have all of them. And they feel a huge amount of relief knowing that if they need it, they can get access to me within 24 hours. But if they don’t need it, they don’t need it. It’s fine. It’s no big deal.

Racheal Cook:
We protect that by making sure that there is a process in place for them to get that call. If they need that back pocket call, if they need to access me within 24 hours, they have to email Lane and she will clear a time on my calendar for us to talk. So that’s the process. It’s not they text message me and I jump on the call right away. It’s they message Lane, and Lane will get them on the calendar with me.

Racheal Cook:
We have other calendar related things that just become part of the SOP. And I hope as I’m sharing this, you are thinking about what does my calendar SOP needs to look like? One of the things that I get asked all the time is will I have lunch with somebody, or coffee with somebody? And I have to be really careful about this. Because this is one of those things that does take time and energy. And it means actually driving to wherever you’re having coffee.

Racheal Cook:
So I realized I was saying yes to these too quickly. Maybe you can relate. I was in the moment meeting somebody at a networking event or a local community event. And I was like, “Yeah, I’d love to have coffee with you. Let’s find a time.” And I realized I was actually making bad decisions, because then I’d look at my week, the week that I had scheduled that coffee date. And realized I was feeling totally stressed and overwhelmed with how much was on the calendar.

Racheal Cook:
So now if someone wants to have lunch with me, have coffee with me. First, I tell them, “Hey, that sounds great. I would love to connect with you on that. Can you email my assistant so she can find a time for us?” Does that sound weird? Is it sometimes awkward? Yes. But, the beauty of that is now I have someone who can protect me from myself and protect my calendar from my desire to be nice in the moment. And I will just have them email in. Lane will connect them with a day that I have availability. And if Lane doesn’t know who this person is, she always messages me like, “Hey, so and so messaged about having lunch. Does that still work for you? Is that someone you want to have lunch with?” And I can say yes or no, or I can say, “I need to push that off.” She can help me kind of be the buffer. So I’m not saying yes to things that aren’t a great fit, but she can help me navigate that in a less stress-filled, in the moment way.

Racheal Cook:
And when I do this, the other thing we have as part of the SOP is we decide where will I be having lunch? So I have a few restaurants that Lane knows of that are very close and easy for me if I’m in my home office, or very close and easy for me if I’m downtown at The Broad, my coworking space, where I can connect with people. And that way I’m not traveling across the city in order to meet people.

Racheal Cook:
So these calendar boundaries are incredibly important for us. And honestly, it is what protects the time that I have carved out and set aside for the key areas of my model calendar. those core CEO tasks areas. That’s what helps me make sure that Monday is maintained as my CEO date. That’s what helps ma make sure that my client dates continue to be very consistently on Tuesdays and Thursdays for my accelerator clients. Or Tuesdays and Wednesdays for my accelerator clients, Thursdays for my course clients. And then on non-client weeks, I have those times carved out for content. And that way I’m not distracted. Because the minute I say yes to something that shouldn’t be there, I’m basically saying no to getting the content done. The minute I say yes to something that shouldn’t be there, I’m saying no to getting my CEO date done. And those are non-negotiables now.

Racheal Cook:
So I encourage you to think about your model calendar. I encourage you to think about what are your core CEO tasks that you need to prioritize. And then what are your calendar SOPs? How are you going to handle the requests that come in? What are the times you have available for clients? What are the times you have available for doing interviews, or doing connection calls, or meeting people for lunch? Get those SOPs down so that you aren’t juggling with figuring all those out in the moment. Because in the moment means a higher likelihood of committing to something you shouldn’t really be saying yes to. It’s when the people pleaser takes over.

Racheal Cook:
Okay. The next area of boundaries I think is really important to talk about is communication. So many of us struggle with the constant communication. We are available everywhere and all the time, right? And this can become a real challenge. Because unfortunately, if you set the precedent of being available 24/7, then people start to expect that you are available 24/7. So you have to decide again, what are your boundaries around communication?

Racheal Cook:
So there’s a few of these we need to talk about. The first is what channels are you available for? What channels are you available for? This is key because these days, we have email. We have social media and multiple social media. A lot of us have other apps like Voxer, or another similar messaging app. Maybe you have clients who have your phone number. Maybe you have multiple email addresses. I find it’s really important to get clear on what is your preferred channel of communication for your business. And, who has access to any other channels?

Racheal Cook:
So if we were to actually kind of make a tier of tiered channels that we have, my preferred channel for pretty much everybody is going to be email. Email is my preferred channel. Do I have an assistant managing my inbox? Absolutely. I would miss stuff all the time otherwise. Do I have one primary email for the business? Yes, it’s hello@rachealcook.com. If you reach out to us, Lane is the person who is the first responder, right? The second email is racheal@rachealcook.com. If you email me there, Lane is also going to scan that inbox because she manages my email. We use a system called Help Scout. It makes it a lot easier for us to stay on top of those things.

Racheal Cook:
Honestly, I am not great at email. I often would get overwhelmed or frustrated because I’d see an email come in and wouldn’t have time to deal with it in the moment. And then suddenly it got buried somewhere. So I have someone who is really good at keeping me organized in the inbox. She’s really good at making sure we’re following up with the right people and responding to all the emails, and we have a system in place. So email is my primary channel. If you really have questions for me, if you want to know something about a program, if you’re a client and you need additional support, send us an email. That’s the best place to go.

Racheal Cook:
Now that said, we have some things around email that we put into our communication SOP for how we manage our inbox. So we aren’t sitting here with our inbox open all day long. And I don’t expect Lane to have the inbox open all day long. I don’t expect her to have a five minute turnaround time. That would be crazy to me, because that is not the type of business we are running. That doesn’t feel in alignment with our values. If I’m trying to build a business where I allow the team the same freedom and flexibility that I have, I can’t expect that for my team. Right? And honestly, I feel like it’s completely reasonable to have a 12 to 24 hour turnaround time, response time on our emails. And that’s what we aim for.

Racheal Cook:
So our SOPs for our emails is it Lane checks through our inbox at least twice a day, in the morning in the afternoon. That’s all she really needs to do. Her goal is to respond to all the questions she can respond to. And she honestly can answer pretty much everything. And then only pass off things to me that truly require my response. So she can handle I’m serious, almost any question. We have developed an entire document full of responses to frequently asked questions, responses about different programs. If it’s a client emailing in, “Where do I find this?” She knows exactly where to find all the different client documents and client files. If it’s somebody in a program and in a course trying to find something, she knows where to find all of that. She can answer all of those questions way better than I can. And she’s put together a system to make it easy so she can get through that inbox quickly and the two times a day that she shows up. So that’s great, right? We are very clear about that.

Racheal Cook:
We also communicate that to people. They know that if you email us, you’re not going to get a five minute response time. This is not a chat. This is not a direct message. This is an email. So you’ll hear from us pretty shortly within a day. And I think that is totally fine.

Racheal Cook:
We also communicate that we are not working on the weekends. So if you email in on a Friday afternoon, you might not hear from us until Monday morning. Again, if you set the precedent, people are like, “Oh yeah, they value freedom and flexibility and having family time. So of course they’re not responding to emails at 10:00 at night or Sunday morning when they should be having brunch with their family in their pajamas.” So that’s really important for us. That is our primary channel is email. Our frequency is we check it twice a day. And things are processed within 12 to 24 hours is the goal.

Racheal Cook:
The next channels that we have, we really had to start thinking about. For me, I realized if too many people had access to me in too many different ways, I was overwhelmed and I was dropping balls all over the place. So this is one reason I have email because Lane is so good at it. She’s got a great system for it. She can make sure things get into my project management system if I have a task I need to do. But if I’m getting an email and a text message and a DM, I will forget stuff.

Racheal Cook:
So my default response especially for social media, if people are asking me questions or people want to have a call with me, or they want to learn more about a program, or they want more details. I tell them to email me. Because chances are, if I’m seeing a DM on Instagram, I am nowhere near my laptop. I can’t grab that link right now. I don’t know where it’s at.

Racheal Cook:
So I’m telling people all the time I don’t mind having an Instagram DM conversation. I actually love Instagram DMS as a way to get to know people and just connect. But when they have more specific questions, more than I can type with thumbs as I’m out and about, then I just say, “Hey, can I shoot you an email? Or can you shoot me an email?” I get it over into the inbox as quickly as possible.

Racheal Cook:
Same thing with Facebook DMS. I hate Facebook DMS because they get lost. So I try to get people into the inbox as quickly as possible. And I highly recommend if you are overwhelmed by social media, you feel like you’re dropping balls. Come up with a little response that you write. I actually have one in my phone in my text documents here, my notes. Where I can copy and paste it and say, “Hey, I’d love to connect with you about that. Can you email me at my email?” And that alleviates so many problems. Because if it’s a response that is more than a one liner, it really needs to get back in the inbox. I can’t do business over text message at that point.

Racheal Cook:
The other channels that I find really challenging, and I’ve had to really limit who has access to this, is my phone. I do not give out my personal phone number to everyone. If you go to any of our different business pages, you will see a phone number. And it goes to a voicemail that Lane will then check twice a day. And she can call you back. She can email respond to you, do whatever. And that’s something that if I need to use that voicemail number, I can. But, I really avoid anybody having my personal phone number.

Racheal Cook:
I learned this the very hard and painful way when I had a client who completely abused having access to my personal phone number. And there were nights where she was text messaging me nonstop, like total stream of consciousness when it really should have just been put into an email. And it was in the middle of the night, I’m nursing my little baby. I was livid. And that’s when I realized nope, not everybody can have my phone number. It is just something I needed to protect for myself.

Racheal Cook:
So if you have a phone number, I highly recommend deciding do you need a phone number for your business? Most of us probably do. People still like to call us, even though I know no one picks up the phone anymore. But I have a phone number. It’s a Google Voice number. It is a voicemail. People can call in. It can either redirect straight to my phone. So I’ll see that it’s Google Voice and I can pick it up and answer it. Or I can just have it all sent to voicemail, which is where it goes most of the time.

Racheal Cook:
If people need your actual phone number, decide very carefully who gets that. For me, I do not give all my clients that. My accelerator clients get it, but not all at the same time. It would be very overwhelming. And honestly most of them know, and they really respect and appreciate the fact that I prefer email to be our dominant communication channel because it makes sure I have another team member tagged in and helping me make sure that no balls get dropped. So that is super important for us. That’s super important for me.

Racheal Cook:
The final communication thing I want to talk about boundaries around communication, and you probably will start to get this especially as your business starts to grow and more people start to see you as an expert, as an authority in your topic. Is people will start emailing you questions that really they should be paying for these answers, right? These are the people who want to pick your brain. They just want to run a quick question by you. They just want to get some quick feedback. They just want to get some quick insight. And honestly at the beginning, it’s easy to think that just responding to that will turn into a client. But more often than not, it doesn’t. So we have to have clear boundaries in place for how we’re going to handle these things.

Racheal Cook:
So if you’re in a situation where you are taking on clients and you have availability to have these conversations. If you’re getting those brain picking questions, I highly recommend having a template, an email kind of pre-drafted ready to go where you’re saying, “Hey, this is such a great question. I would love to explore this with you. The best way to do that is to,” and you tell them what the next step is. Is it to book a free consult? Is it to pay for a consult? Is it to work with you in a specific program? Is it to send them to a piece of content you’ve already created? I find that having that kind of drafted is really helpful. And often just telling people, “Hey, this is a great question. I’d love to explore that with you. It sounds like there’s a lot of layers in here we need to dig into to get to the right answer for you.” And then you just tell them what the next step is. Most people are like, “Great. Thank you so much. I love that I can now jump on your calendar,” or now do something else. So just tell them what that next step is. You don’t have to answer it right away.

Racheal Cook:
But for me, I don’t respond to those because it does not make sense for me to basically be offering coaching for free when people pay me a lot of money to do that. It’s kind of disrespectful to my existing clients if I was just allowing all these people to pick my brain. So what I do now, and this is kind of our default response for this is, “Hey, thanks so much for this question. I actually have already talked about this in depth over at this resource,” and I’ll point them to a piece of content because we have literally hundreds of episodes of this show. So usually I’ve answered the question somewhere. So I might point them to a couple of resources on the show. I might point them to one of my masterclasses. I might point them to a free download. That is something that Lane is amazing at handling because she already knows all of my content. So she can really point them in the right direction.

Racheal Cook:
And if it’s a question I haven’t addressed yet, then we will say, “Hey, this is such a great question. I really prefer to answer these over on,” and I’ll say on Facebook, or on the podcast, or on Instagram. So I am really trying to point it towards being a response more people can benefit from, right?

Racheal Cook:
So if I’m just answering people one-on-one in the inbox or one-on-one in DM, it’s not super valuable. But if they are asking a great question, then I think it would be valuable for a lot of people. And then I can use that as a way to create content. That makes sense. So I might say, “Hey, that’s a great question. I’m going to add that to my list of ideas for the show. And thank you so much for emailing that in.”

Racheal Cook:
If it’s somebody who has a question from a group program, this is another challenge we’ve run into a couple of times. People who get into our group program who aren’t sure what the preferred communication channel is. And for them, it really is our Facebook group. So if they email in an individual question, but they’re in a group program, we will say, “Hey, this is such a great question. Can we post this in the group and either answer it during a Q&A call or just have a discussion in the group?” And most of the time they’re like, “Oh yeah, that’s great. I just wanted to make sure Racheal saw it.” So we just continuously point people to the right communication channel. We have some templated responses to make it easier for us to kind of crowd control and make sure everybody’s getting into the right place. And anytime people are asking me questions, I’m trying to make sure, unless it’s a one on one client, someone in my accelerator. I’m trying to make sure that it becomes either useful for the rest of the group, or can really help the community in a bigger way. Because I know if one person has a question, probably lots of people have the question.

Racheal Cook:
Okay. So far we’ve talked about calendar boundaries. We’ve talked about communication boundaries. Now let’s talk about some client boundaries. Because this is where things can get a little bit sticky. I know we’ve all had those sticky clients situations. And honestly, this is where having clear boundaries upfront, setting expectations upfront will save you so much energy. It will save you so much energy.

Racheal Cook:
Where I see people getting frustrated and overwhelmed is when one, their clients don’t respect their appointments. And they cancel on them or they no show on them. Or they’re constantly rescheduling on them last minute. Nope. You have to let them know upfront what happens if they no show, what happens if they cancel, what happens if they reschedule. Those should be in your client agreements. And if you do not have client agreements, then you need to get one. And it really doesn’t have to be the most complicated thing in the world to just have a section in your agreement saying, “Here’s our scheduling policy. And here’s what happens if you don’t give us a heads up.” And we tell people we need a 24 hour heads up before they cancel or reschedule an appointment. “If you don’t give us a 24 hour notice, then this session is considered forfeit.” Which means you just don’t get to make it up. And we also have in there the rescheduling policy. “So if you do give us a heads up, something’s going on, no problem. But if you have to reschedule on us, we have to accommodate you now in our schedule that has been laid out a year in advance. Which often means you have to wait until the very end. That session now has to travel with you into the very end of your entire program in order for us to accommodate it in our schedule.”

Racheal Cook:
So that really encourages our clients to not reschedule. Because they know they’re not going to get it rescheduled anytime soon. It has to fit in with my calendar, not with their calendar. And that is very well mapped out. So that encourages them not to reschedule, or to not show up on me or to cancel on me.

Racheal Cook:
You also want to have, do you have fees associated with cancellations or reschedules? I know that when I book an appointment at my salon to get my roots done. Because very gray. Very gray. But I have to give them a credit card number. Because if I just don’t show up for hair appointment, they’re going to charge me a cancellation fee of $25. So it is perfectly acceptable for my hairstylist to do that, for my dentist to do that, for any other professional to charge a cancellation fee if you don’t give them a heads up. So make sure people know, if you just simply do not tell us and you do not show up, you will be charged a fee to accommodate for our lost time and energy.

Racheal Cook:
So I feel like those are things that you can put those expectations right upfront in your agreement. You can also reiterate those expectations in your onboarding. And if you run into the very first situation where somebody is trying to cancel last minute or trying to change it. You need to address it immediately. Immediately. Because if you let it slide the first time, then they start to feel like it’s not a big deal. And I guarantee you we’ve all had those situations where we let it slide once, but then it started happening again and again. And you started to get to the feeling of, “Oh god, now how can I even bring this up?” You got to nip it in the bud up front. And this is where having a email that’s ready to go saying, “Hey, you didn’t show up for our appointment today. We sent you a reminder. You confirmed that the appointment was on. I want to give you a heads up that I know emergencies happen, but we do require 24 hour cancellation. Because you missed this one, I want to let you won’t have a reschedule.”

Racheal Cook:
You just have to have that email kind of ready to go so that you’re not emotional about it. And you can let them know, “Hey, this happened. I want to let you know that this is our policy. And moving forward, this is what’s going to happen if you don’t show up or you cancel last minute.” So I find that is just really, really, really important. That’s one of the biggest headaches I see people have is the cancellations, the reschedules, the no shows. Put it in your agreement, put it in your onboarding, have something ready the first time they make that mistake so that they know instantly that you mean business. They can’t do that to you.

Racheal Cook:
And if they continue, it’s okay to fire them as a client. It’s okay to say, “Hey, this is not working for me. I have booked that X number of times for you.” And I literally had a client once who out of a six month program with me one-on-one, she missed half of the sessions, and then wanted me to make them up with her. And I was like, “No, that is not the agreement. That is not what happened. I showed up for every single appointment, and you did not. I’m sorry. It was not a fit. I’m sorry to see you go. Not really, because this was a pain for me. But when I say these are the appointments I’m serious. You have to show up the days that we agreed upon.” So I think that’s really one of those client things that we all struggle with. But if you set the expectations and you reinforce it immediately the first time it shows as being a problem, you won’t be struggling with it so much.

Racheal Cook:
The next client boundary that I feel like can be really challenging is scope creep. Now, this is something I tend to see happen a lot for my clients who are service providers, who are really good at lots of things. And they just want to make their clients happy. They just want to say yes. And unfortunately, they keep saying yes to too many things. And suddenly when I look at everything they have now created or delivered to that client, now I’m looking at them going, “You have undercharged this client so much. Your hourly rate for what you have created for them is pennies.” This is a huge problem, especially for women entrepreneurs. Because again, we want to be people pleasers. We want to say yes. They hire us to do one thing. And then suddenly they’re like, “Well, I hired you to build this website, but could you also make some social media graphics? Cause you also design a sales page? Could you also format this blog and create a newsletter template?” And suddenly you look at all the things you’ve created, and that package really should have been two or three times what you charged. I’m serious. Every time this happens, I’m looking at my clients and what their deliverables are. I’m always like, “Holy cow, you need to double your prices immediately. Because you are way over delivering an undercharging. Because you keep adding more deliverables. You keep adding more to this.”

Racheal Cook:
So scope creep is a real problem. And if you don’t want to get into this situation, again, clear expectations. Really lay out every single thing you are delivering to them. It’s easy to assume that people know what it is, it means to deliver a specific product.

Racheal Cook:
So I was just working with one of my amazing accelerator clients and she specializes in helping entrepreneurs get more visibility, especially through public speaking and landing podcast interviews. And she was offering a onetime session for just $397. And not only was she rewriting their pitch from scratch, but she was also creating a speaking bio helping them craft their top three signature topics or signature talk topics and giving them templates that they could then use to go pitch themselves. As she started breaking down all of these different deliverables, I was thinking to myself, “This is not just an hour of your time. This is a lot of deliverables.” And we realized she had just completely undersold what the value of this offer was.

Racheal Cook:
So we tripled the price and made it 997 because it truly was something unlike any other experience. It wasn’t just an hour picking her brain. It was an intensive where you walk away with a custom pitch, a signature talk topics, a speaker bio, and a lot of resources to help you get a head start on pitching yourself and getting more visibility.

Racheal Cook:
So we realized that she needed to have that ironed out. She needed to increase her prices and change around her package. But really, she had to get clarity and articulate what was included in that offer. And this is something again, it comes with setting expectations, setting those boundaries. And if something else comes up, if someone comes in and says, “Can you also do this? Can you write my speaker bio and also write me a speaker one sheet?” Then you need to have again, I love these templated canned response emails or things you can send back to your clients and say, “Hey, I would love to do that. For me to do that, it’s an additional,” whatever the fee is to create this. And you outline what the additional thing is. You just want to document for each thing they’re asking you, this is extra time and energy and effort. And there’s another price. There’s an add on here. They’re adding on services. It’s not just another freebie that you can offer.

Racheal Cook:
So I think this is one of those things if you set the expectations and the first time they ask for something extra, you can say, “Hey, that sounds great. I would love to do that for you. It will be an additional XYZ in order for me to accomplish ABC. Is that okay? I’ll add it to your next invoice.” If they okay it, then you’re good. Because you’ve gotten paid for the extra work. But if not, now they know, “We’re outside of the boundary of this.” And if the client is actually asking for a whole nother level of service, which sometimes happen. Sometimes people just don’t know what they don’t know. They come in at one level and they really should have been at a higher level, more hands-on level. That’s a conversation you can have where you can say, “Hey, I just want to let you know. It sounds like you came in on this level and you’ve been asking for this, this, and this. And that’s truly the level of work that I do with these clients. Are you interested in upgrading your program, or upgrading your package, or upgrading your retainer with me to also include these things?”

Racheal Cook:
That’s a simple email or a simple conversation where you’re just pointing out, “You came in at this level and now you’re looking for this level. Are you interested in upgrading to get all those extra things, or are you happy to continue where you are?” So you’re just reinforcing that you get paid to do this. They cannot get it more, and more, and more for free, right? They have to pay you each time you say yes to another thing.

Racheal Cook:
So we’ve covered a lot of ground here with boundaries. We’ve talked about creating your calendar boundaries, creating those SOPs, standard operating procedures around your calendar. Making sure that you have your model calendar in place. You know how you’re going to handle clients on your calendar. How you’re going to manage people trying to get on your calendar. Who’s managing your calendar. We talked about communication, the preferred channel. And having some of those canned responses. So if someone is DMing you and you really want them to get into your inbox, how you handle that. How you handle the brain pickers and people who really should be paying you. How you make sure that you are not being unreasonable with how frequent or infrequent you choose to check your email or whatever other communication channels that you have. Just communication really is so important. Communicating your communication approach is going to be huge to setting those expectations.

Racheal Cook:
And then clients, it’s all about expectations. It’s all about setting those expectations. And at the first sign of there being a challenge, letting people know. Do not wait. Don’t let things slide. If you are worried about these things, this is why it is so valuable to be in a group like being at the CEO retreat or being inside of my Sweet Spot Strategy program. Because then you can ask for feedback on how to craft these emails and handle these sticky situations. Because you’ve got to nip them in the bud the first time. Because if you don’t, it will continue to be a problem. So if you are going to have boundaries, you have to make sure you reinforce the boundaries.

Racheal Cook:
And will people push against them? Yeah, of course are going to. People always push against boundaries. It does not mean the boundary isn’t working. It just means you need to now reinforce the boundary until they understand what is okay and what is not okay when it comes to doing business with you.

Racheal Cook:
Okay. This was a lot more about boundaries than I thought I was going to cover. But I hope it was helpful. If you love today’s episode, please take a quick screenshot and share it on Instagram. You should know by now, Instagram is my favorite social media channel to connect with you. So if you screenshot this episode, share it on your Instagram stories. Tag me @racheal.cook. And I really want to hear from you, which boundary are you going to work on enforcing this week? What are you needing some support around? Let me know, tag me on Instagram. I really look forward to hearing from you.

Racheal Cook:
For full show notes, head over to rachealcook.com/show. And if you don’t want to miss any future episodes of Promote Yourself to CEO, make sure you have subscribed to the show via Apple Podcasts, Spotify, wherever else you listen to podcasts. Thanks so much for listening. I look forward to talking to you soon.


Show Links

How a Model Calendar Helps Me Work Just 25 Hours a Week

What Is Your Role as CEO?

The ROI of Thinking Like a CEO

Deep Work by Cal Newport